From the archive: Project Victor

POSTED April 26th, 2011 UNDER Editorial, News

Project Victor

I’m revisiting an old post I made about three years ago, mainly because it is such an awesome story.  About Sara, and a long running joke she would make every year for her birthday, and how finally, three years ago, something interesting happened with a chance encounter and a Hasselblad camera.

I’m also posting this story again because out here in World-Wide-Interweb-Land there are lots of murmur’s of a film resurgence going on.  People starting to pick up film cameras again and starting to shoot.  I’m using this revisit as an excuse to get my film cameras back into the camera bag and start shooting with them again.

Sara had been asking for a Hasselblad camera for as long as I’ve known her. The idea of owning the Rolls Royce of cameras would send shivers down her spine and get her giggly whenever she talked about them.

One of the ongoing jokes was each June when her birthday rolled around, she jokingly would ask for a Hassie for her birthday, knowing that we could never afford one.

Until 2008.

I had spent about a year helping out a local camera store a few days a week back in 2007/2008.   A few months before her birthday,  an older gentleman came into the store and was talking to the owner, who knew about our little ongoing joke.  While eavesdropping on their conversation, I heard the word “Hassleblad” and then, “Hey, Sid, come over here for a minute” and I was introduced to John. John is 85 and he’s been working on Hasselblad’s for most of his life. I tell him how Sara really wanted one and how it would be great to finally surprise her with one of these cameras someday. We chat a little more and John says “well, I’ve got some parts at home. Lemme see what I can put together that might make her happy.” and he leaves.

A few days later, he comes walking into the camera shop with a Hasselblad C/M kit and explains to me that while the film back is some twenty years older than the body, everything was double checked and cleaned and in tip top shape and that since Sara is a lovely lady and loves photography and has been asking for one for so long, I could have it for $200.

At which I jumped on as soon as I picked up my jaw from the floor.


Project Victor


After I gave John the money and he left, the owner of the camera store told me to look up his full name on the internets, which I did, and it turns out that John is actually John Kovacs, who was one of the original group of technicians that worked on the NASA modification of Hasselblad equipment for the Space Program, and was one of the original Hasselblad technicians trained in Sweden many many years ago.

It also turns out that he is the patent holder for the workings that enable multiple exposures on cameras with a film-back mechanism.

So, not only did I get to present Sara with a fantastic condition C/M camera, but it was also put together by the guy that worked on the cameras that went into space for the first flight to the Moon.

. . . A few days later, after finding out the cameras he touched took a trip up to the moon, John came back in the store, and I asked him about this.

“Yeah,” he said.  “Fu*king Neil Armstrong couldn’t operate the camera with his big stupid moon gloves on, so I had to create a big dumb button that he could bang to take the exposure.”

It was one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard 😉




I love this story.  I love that John was moved that Sara and I met in college, both loved photography, and that he offered up this camera; one of the last cameras he worked on before he retired from the camera repair business.

While moving some things around at the studio the other week, the Hassie was sitting there, amid the other camera bodies and lenses, and still looked elegant and regal.  I took it out and pawed it over for a few minutes, and then promised myself that I’m going to use it more.  I’ll put it in my camera bag and during shoots with clients I’ll try my best to take it out at the end of a session and go through a roll of film.  Simply because I shouldn’t forget my roots.  Simply because it is an incredible piece of photographic machinery.  Because it has special meaning, and because it was touched and cared for by the man that sent cameras up to the moon.

I can’t wait to start shooting with it again.



more info about John’s patent here:

And while we’re talking about Hasselblad, check out this great project of how to build your own working paper Hasselblad camera

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7 Responses to “From the archive: Project Victor”

  1. The sun sets on Hasselblad: my thoughts Says:

    May 28th, 2013 at 7:36 am

    […] I’ve blogged in the past about how I finally obtained my 500C/M; a unique memory and a flash of luck that got me one of the last used camera bodies refurbished by one of the last true US Hasselblad technicians. […]

  2. Sue Morse Says:

    August 4th, 2013 at 10:03 am

    Great story!

  3. Sid Says:

    August 6th, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Every time I pick up the Hassy I think of John.

  4. Washington DC! Says:

    August 1st, 2014 at 6:32 am

    […] The Air & Space Museum had a few of the Hasselblad’s that went to the moon.  I kinda stood there in awe, considering that I bought a Hasselblad from the very guy that worked on these cameras that went into space. […]

  5. Lubitel 166 - SID CEASER PHOTOGRAPHY • BLOG Says:

    July 26th, 2015 at 6:32 am

    […] with her when she goes on walks during her lunch break at work, and she didn’t want to lug the Hasselblad around, which can be pretty heavy.  I did a little research and came across a cheaply priced […]

  6. July 20th, 1969: One Giant Leap for Mankind. - SID CEASER PHOTOGRAPHY • BLOG Says:

    July 21st, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    […] I wrote previously, the Hasselblad that I own came from the hands of one of the people who prepared the […]

  7. The PhaseOne P30 Medium Format Digital Back. Or: New Gear - Moving Backwards Instead Of Forwards, And How Good It Makes Me Feel. - SID CEASER PHOTOGRAPHY Says:

    February 13th, 2017 at 6:37 am

    […] you are looking at is my Hasselblad 500C/M.  I’ve shared my awesome story about how I came to own this camera in the past, but if you look on the back of the camera, usually where there is a 120 […]

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